Arriving on Kuningan in Bali

I arrived in Bali during an auspictious time. The streets were decorated with bamboo poles and prayer offerings were everywhere. I saw processions of women carrying towers of food and flowers; groups of kids of all ages playing the gamelan; and processions  taking Barong (mystical beast) through the streets. In fact, every home and business had its “penjor” (similar to a Christmas tree), but outdoors and decorated with fruit, coconut leaves and flowers. Continue reading “Arriving on Kuningan in Bali”

Knoxville City Guide

Crista Cuccaro, a law student at the University of Tennessee put together this very handy and comprehensive guide for visitors to Knoxville, TN. She shared it with me after learning about my visit to the area. I hope it helps you in planning your trip as well. If you enjoy it, please Tweet to Crista @cmc_bumblebee and show your appreciation!

DINING

The Tomato Head. 12 Market Square

This is one of my favorite restaurants in town. They have creative sandwiches, pizzas, and burritos, all made with fresh and often locally sourced ingredients. This place gets very busy during weekday lunch and weekend evenings, but the food is worth the wait!

just ripe. 513 Union Ave.

This worker-owned co-op just recently opened and is close to Market Square. This shop offers delicious food to order and groceries. just ripe is flanked by Union Ave. Books, one of the few independently owned bookstores in Knoxville, and by Reruns, a swanky clothing consignment shop.

Old City Java. 109 S. Central Ave.

Also located in the Old City, this coffee shop serves Counter Culture coffee, which I absolutely LOVE, but I can’t justify buying whole bags of it on a student’s budget. They have free wi-fi and there’s always interesting art on the walls.

Bars

Knox Public House. 212 W. Magnolia Ave.

This is a new, hip bar located on the outskirts of downtown. I really love this bar because it’s non-smoking, it does not have a television, and it does not have live music. Although that might sound boring, it makes for a cozy atmosphere where you can have a conversation instead of shouting over music. They also have excellent housemade infused vodkas, such as ginger-cardamom and lavender.

The Bistro. 807 South Gay St.

Also a smoke-free bar, I love the low ceilings and dim light of this restaurant. They frequently have live jazz music in the evening. This old establishment is right next to the Bijou, one of Knoxville’s downtown historic theaters. We have seen lots of great acts at The Bijou, including The Avett Brothers, Abigail Washburn, and Sufjan Stevens.

Sassy Ann’s. 820 N. Fourth Ave.

This bar is in an old Victorian house in the Fourth and Gill neighborhood, about a mile north of downtown. To summarize the atmosphere, it feels like being in a ship. The bar is funky and the location of many dance parties.

Preservation Pub Rooftop. 28 Market Square

I don’t care much for the Preservation Pub bar downstairs—it’s smoky and loud, but the two upper floors are more enjoyable. They recently opened their rooftop bar, which is one of Knoxville’s only rooftop bars.

Groceries

Three Rivers Market. Currently at 937 N. Broadway, soon to open at 1100 N Central Street.

This is Tennessee’s only food cooperative. We buy most of groceries here. You don’t have to be a member to shop at it. They focus on supplying natural and organic foods from local farms. It’s like a Whole Foods or Earthfare, but independent and community-owned. They have one of the best herbs and spices sections I have ever seen.

Market Square Farmers’ Market.

Every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, from May to November, a growing and vibrant farmers’ market opens on Market Square. There are lots of vendors, selling produce, prepared foods, crafts, and plants. I really enjoy Cruze Farm, a vendor who owns a dairy farm in Knoxville—they sell fluffy buttermilk biscuits and homemade ice cream.

Downtown Wine and Spirits. 407 South Gay Street

 

If you’re looking for unusual and well-curated spirits, this is the place. This shop sells standard fare, such as vodka and wine, but they also sell harder to find whiskeys and liquors. Another note about liquor in TN—you cannot buy wine in the grocery store, which surprised me when I moved here from NC. In fact, you can’t buy anything at the liquor store besides liquor. They are not even allowed to sell corkscrews!

Museums and Art

First Friday Art Walk.

The name speaks for itself. On the first Friday of every month, the art galleries downtown and in the surrounding area open up to the public. You can usually catch some live music and free snacks along the way. Most of my favorite art galleries are on the 100 Block of Gay Street, which is the side furthest from the Tennessee River.

Knoxville Museum of Art. 1050 World’s Fair Park

The museum is modest in size, but they have acquired grants so that admission is usually free. Recently, the Museum has acquired some phenomenal art exhibits, including Ai Weiwei, an activist who had been imprisoned by the Chinese government until recently.  Check their website for current exhibits.

Yee-Haw Industries. 413 S. Gay Street

 

The UT Art Department has a well-known printmaking program and Yee-Haw is a group of our local printmakers. They sell some great art at their store. If you catch the owner Kevin Bradley on a good day, you might even get a personal tour.  When you go, look up at the ceiling, or else you will miss some neat prints.

East Tennessee History Museum. 601 South Gay Street

This Museum opened a few years ago and chronicles the history of East Tennessee. It’s a large space and particularly interesting if you like Southern history. Plus, it’s free on Sundays!

Sunsphere. It’s that big shiny globe.

Have you gone up into this thing? There is an observation deck, from which you can see the entire city and get a great view of the mountains. There used to be bar up in the ‘Sphere, but it closed. Rumor has it that there is another bar opening soon.

Entertainment

WDVX Blue Plate Special. 301 South Gay Street

This is a free, live music concert that is hosted EVERY weekday at the Knoxville Visitors’ Center on the corner of Gay St. and Summit Hill Ave. The bands are usually bluegrass, so you can get a good dose of Appalachia.

Central St. Books. 842 N. Central Street

Another one of Knoxville’s independently owned bookstores, this shop has more used books than Union Ave. Books. The owner has a great collection of books and the store is in an up and coming area of Knoxville, next to a bakery and a yoga studio.

Magpies. 846 N. Central Street

Do you like cupcakes? Everyone loves cupcakes and I especially love these cupcakes. Magpies is located right next to Central St. Books. Their motto is “all butter, all the time.” Mmm.

Smokies Baseball. 3540 Line Drive in Kodak

 

This is the AA farm team of the Chicago Cubs. The trek to Kodak is about 25 minutes from downtown Knoxville. The stadium is small, but they serve ice cream in miniature baseball helmets. What’s better than that!? If you go, I speak from personal experience when I say that the iPhone’s GPS maps the route incorrectly.

Knoxville Ice Bears. 500 Howard Baker Jr Ave.

 

The first game of the season is in October. The Bears’ ice hockey games are at the Civic Coliseum, which is just on the other side of downtown.

Downtown West Regal 8 Cinema. 1640 Down Town West Blvd.

 

This theatre is located in West Knoxville and shows the art and independent films that come through Knoxville. They also serve beer!

Morelock Music. 411 S. Gay Street

Matt Morelock used to work for WDVX and left to open up this music store in downtown Knoxville. At his shop, Morelock sells instruments such as banjos and  guitars—I even saw a cajón for sale recently. The shop offers instructional lessons and often has live music on weekend nights.

Nostalgia. 5214 Homberg Drive

 

Although my fiancée may disagree that antique shopping is a form of entertainment, this store has been continuously voted as Knoxville’s best antique store and I agree! It’s a big space with lots of booths. I usually find something I can’t live without. Also nearby: Loopville (Knoxville’s best yarn/knitting shop), Jerry’s Art-a-Rama (art supplies), Goodwill (my favorite thrift shop in town), and Nama (pricey, but tasty sushi)

Outdoor Fun

UT Gardens. This is a small garden on Neyland Drive, but they have a lot packed into it. You might want to visit on a cloudy day, since there’s not a lot of shade. If you enjoy trees and the like, you may also want to check out the Knoxville Botanical Gardens, located in East Knoxville.

Ijams Nature Center. 2915 Island Home Avenue

Ijams Nature Center is a 275-acre wildlife sanctuary and environmental learning center in South Knoxville. The Center is split into two parts—one side runs along the river and the other follows trails along an old quarry. We usually go running along the greenways here. Ijams has recently started renting canoes and kayaks for use in the quarry.

Greenways.

 

There are over 40 miles of greenways in Knoxville, throughout the city. The trails are well maintained and well trafficked. You can check online for the greenway closest to you.

River Sports Outfitters. 2918 Sutherland Avenue

There are several outdoors stores in Knoxville, but I like this one the best. They have a huge amount of gear and staff that really seem to use the gear. Plus, they have a climbing wall as part of their Sutherland Ave. location.

Festivals

International Biscuit Festival (late May)

Bacon Fest (September 16-17, 2011)

Rossini Festival (Early April)

Boomsday (Labor Day—one of the biggest fireworks shows in the South)

Kuumba Fest (June—celebrating Knoxville’s African American artists)

Hola Festival (Sept. 24, 2011—the festival is part of Hispanic Heritage Month)

Big Ears Festival (2012 date TBA—a diverse music festival in downtown Knoxville, organized by AC Entertainment, which also helped form Bonnaroo)

Photo credits Sucheta Rawal

 

Dogwood Arts Festival

Last weekend, downtown Knoxville transformed into a lively street fair with one of a kind arts and crafts booths, demonstrations, entertainment, and food.  As part of the Dogwood Arts Festival, the entire month of April was being celebrated with parades, bike tours, block parties, art exhibits, live bands, cooking demonstrations and more.

I was lucky enough to catch the Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival during the month of Dogwoods, where well known country, blues, jazz, rock, bluegrass and folk musicians played at different venues across town. The lineup included locally and nationally-renowned musicians such as Amos Lee, Citizen Cope, Darrell Scott, The Black Lilllies, Jessica Lea Mayfield, The Boxer Rebellion, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and Jake Shimabukuro. One of the most splendid venues was the Tennessee Theater, a historic opera style performing arts theater that stands as a landmark in downtown Knoxville.

While walking through the market square, sidewalks became the canvas for professional and student artists during this street painting festival.  Street painting is thought to have originated in 16th century Italy.  Artists in each age group showcased their work to passers by and the ones with the most votes won awards and scholarships at the end of the festival.  From everyday cartoons to intricate paintings, there were all kinds of colorful vibrant images one could admirably walk through and the street painters seemed very confident and talented in their work.

For more than half a century, the Dogwood Arts Festival has celebrated the natural and cultural beauty of East Tennessee. Dogwood Arts Festival is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, presented by ORNL Federal Credit Union, whose mission is to help support arts education in schools, promote the visual and performing arts, and to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the region.

Open air ice museum

The snow capital of the world, Quebec City hosts the annual Quebec Winter Carnival from Jan-Feb. During those three weeks, the festival grounds turn into a giant open air ice museum with an ice castle surrounded by ice sculptures created by artists who come from around the world.

In 1973, the International Snow Sculpture Competition of Québec officially opened and four teams participated. It is the oldest snow sculpture competition and one of the most prestigious. Every year, sculptors from the four corners of the earth meet the challenge to create a work of art with this ephemeral and fragile medium under extraordinary conditions.

The competition is judged in three categories: Student Artist CategoryQuebec and Canadian Categories and International Category.

While judges award the winner in each of the categories, visitors can walk through these giant marvelous structures carved entirely of snow and ice. The sculpture are at least 5-6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, some even larger. It is incredible how these artists work outdoors in negative temperatures to create a unique piece of art that eventually melts away.

Stay at an ice hotel when visiting Quebec 

 

Take a bath in French style

The snow bath was an essential party during the 58th Winter Carnival in Quebec this February. Eighty-some participants volunteered to shed their clothes down to their bathing suits to bathe in the snow, while it was -20C outside!

A little bit of preparation was needed in order to be on stage while hundreds of people watched. Participants had to sign waivers and vigorously exercise for almost two hours before the event. They also made use of the saunas at the Carnival to warm up their bodies before going for a snow dip.

The crowds cheered on as Bonhomme, the official Carnival mascot came to greet the snow bathers.

People were rolling around in the snow for almost half an hour. I suppose all the dancing and jumping around was keeping them warm. In the background, Macarena and 80’s music was blaring.

Super heroes don’t feel cold. Look at the expression on this man’s face.

Oh the joys of winter! You must have a great attitude to participate in a Quebec snow bath.

Some of these people are looking too pink or is it just me? My fingers froze while I was just taking these pictures and I had to go indoors before they did.

How I celebrate Diwali


Growing up in India, Diwali was a huge affair. It is a festival celebrated by all of India (Hindu or not), sort of like New Year’s. Known as the festival of lights, the victory of good over evil, homecoming of Lord Rama and welcoming Goddess Lakshmi, Diwali is the biggest festival in India.

The scene during Diwali is not to be missed. The markets come alive with bright lights, crowded store offering sales and discounts to lure customers. Everyone is shopping gifts for friends, family and themselves. Children are coaxing their parents to buy more fireworks. Boxes of sweets are being loaded into rickshaws. Someone will then deliver each box to clients and friends. Jewelry stores are also doing good business selling 22 karat gold pieces to be adorned with traditional saris and salwaar kameez. The constant cracking of loud fireworks are disturbing the street dogs while occupying the kids all night long. Homes are lit with outdoor lights and diyas (clay lamps).

Since I moved to the US, I have missed watching the festivities as they use to unfold back in India. However, we Indians settled abroad have tried our best to recreate the cultural fete as best we can. Each year I head over to Lawrenceville Highway, GA (suburb of Atlanta) known also as “Little India.” Most Indian stores and restaurants are saturated in this half-mile radius. You can find everything from Indian groceries, Bollywood movies to wedding attire and authentic Indian gold and diamonds here.

My first stop is at one of the many boutiques to pick out a new outfit. It is customary to wear a new dress on Diwali day, just as you would on Christmas or your birthday. The women dress traditionally, in sari, salwaar kameez or lehnga. I pick one depending on my mood and my budget. A formal dress can cost anywhere from $100-500. If my husband has had a good year, he may also buy me matching gold earrings to go with my dress 🙂

After buying much needed groceries at Cherians, I head over to Gokul Sweets in Decatur, the closest I can come to a Halwai (sweet shop). Thankfully, the owner prepares fresh assorted Indian sweets daily. You can see the racks coming straight out of the kitchen! The sweets are prepared with ghee (clarified butter), sugar, milk, food coloring and nuts, cream, saffron, etc. You can mix and match your treats so you never get bored with the box you take home.

Celebrations are post or preponed to the nearest weekend as we don’t get a day off in the US. Generally, friends get together for an evening of food, drinks and mingling. I would decorate the front of my house, cook an elaborate Indian dinner and invite my Indian and non-Indian friends. We would wear our new garbs, eat and play games. Poker is a popular game played late into the night. I buy extra fireworks on July 4th and save them for the Diwali party. The kids enjoy the surprise and the adults are kids again, reminiscing their celebrations from childhood.